Cortana, the Windows Phone New Digital Assistant available at the 8.1 Update

by Rachel Baker on April 3, 2014

Microsoft is stepping up with its very own Digital Assistant with the next Windows Phone Update (8.1). If its going to be anything like the Cortana of Halo, then she’s going to be pretty great!

The article below tells the story of what Cortana is and what she’s supposed to do.

Editor’s note: I find it completely freaky that I’m unable to describe this piece of technology without using the pronouns “she”.

Technically, Cortana isn’t supposed to exist for at least another 500 years, but that’s not stopping Microsoft from bringing her to life this week. While Apple has Siri and Google has Google Now — both digital assistants that run on smartphones — Microsoft is taking an approach that mixes the best of the competition with its own unique take. Based on a 26th-century artificially intelligent character in the Halo video game series, Cortana will debut as part of Windows Phone 8.1, the next big update for Microsoft’s mobile operating system.

By learning your habits and interests continuously, Cortana is positioned as a personal digital assistant that helps you organize your day-to-day activities, alongside regular web searches for information. Cortana will act as the primary way to discover and search for information on Windows Phone 8.1, or just an assistant to manage your meetings, reminders, and daily life. She’s smart and witty, all while being designed to closely resemble a human assistant. With the competition already years ahead, Cortana arrives at a time when Microsoft is focused on catching up in mobile. Cortana is a significant new feature for Windows Phone 8.1, one that has been in development for more than two years. In many ways, Microsoft’s bold new mobile efforts rest on her virtual shoulders. This is the story of Cortana, and how she came to be.

This part is pretty neat:

The Cortana naming and background is linked directly to Halo, and meshes well with Microsoft’s main goal for the product: recreate a real personal assistant without being too creepy. Cortana was always there for Master Chief in the Halo games, and now she’s always there for you on your phone, but only if you want her to be. Rival services like Google Now dig deep into data from devices, and while that’s often useful it can also be irritating in the form of non-stop notifications, or just scary that the system knows so much about you. To avoid this, Microsoft spoke to a number of high-level personal assistants — yes, actual humans — and found one that kept a notebook with all the key information and interests of the person they had to look after.

Read the whole article here:

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